Pot Odds

When you play Texas Hold’em poker you need to make a lot of decisions, and make them fast. But when you are pondering whether to pursue a drawing hand you’ve got for the chance it may turn into a made hand or give it up, the pot odds will help you decide.

This is something you do when the cards you’re holding and the cards on the table look like a beginning of something (like a straight or a flush, for example) but you are waiting for a card or two to make it a real hand (aka a drawing hand).

Pot odds are not as complicated as they sound, and they really can make a difference in your play. Instead of following your hunches, you can just do the math (and it’s not as hard as you may think!). The basic idea is to compare the bet with the size of the pot to determine if the bet is worth the risk. This approach should show you how to avoid making high bets for small paybacks.

How to decide between folding or calling?
Fold when the pot odds are smaller than the hand odds
Call when the pot odds are higher than the odds against your hand

Calculating Pot Odds
Pot odds are the ratio between the money there is currently in the pot and the cost of a call:

pot size / call = pot odds

For example, if the pot currently holds $80, and it will cost you $20 to call, the pot odds are 80 to 20, meaning 4 to 1, or simply 4.0

Calculating the Odds Against Your Making a Hand
When all you have is a drawing hand you need to hit specific cards. The cards you need to make your hand are called ‘outs’. The assumption is that these outs are in the deck, but are the odds that you’ll get them?
This formula calculates what are the odds against you getting the right cards.

(The number of cards you haven’t seen – the outs) / outs = odds against you

For example if you have 9-10 and the flop shows J-Q-3 you are one card away from a straight. You need either a 8 or a K.

A deck of cards contains 52 cards, and you already seen 5 of them. So there are 47 ones you haven’t seen, that include four 8s and four Ks. So 39 cards will work against you, while only 8 cards will work for you. Your odds of making this hand are 39:8.

With a 39/8 against you, the odds of making this hand are 4.875 .

So in our example, if the pot odds are 4.0 and the odds against you are 4.875. The reward is not big enough to justify going against odds. In this case, you better fold, because the pot is not fat enough to be worth calling for a drawing hand.

As you can see, it’s not exactly rocket science, especially when you play online poker where no one can see you using a pocket calculator or an odds table…hey, that’s okay, your opponent is probably doing the same.